California’s 20 million-plus registered voters will be issued mail-in ballots for the upcoming November election, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday. In-person voting will remain available, albeit with new restrictions due to public health concerns regarding the covid-19 pandemic.
Newsom issued the mandate via an executive order signed Friday, citing projections from health officials that the outbreak will not sufficiently subside by fall and that millions of Californians could potentially risk their health by congregating at voting locations.
“There’s a lot of excitement around this November’s election in terms of making sure that you can conduct yourself in a safe way, and make sure your health is protected,” Newsom said at a press event Friday per the Los Angeles Times.
While a handful of states already have reoccurring all-mail elections, this move makes California the first state to enable statewide mail-in voting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. California’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, applauded the order Friday, the LA Times reported.
“It’s great for public health, it’s great for voting rights, it’s gonna be great for participation,” Padilla said. She added that postage for these mail-in ballots will be pre-paid.
New guidelines for in-person voting remain forthcoming. According to Newsom, an “appropriate number of physical sites” will be available come November.
“Mail-in voting is important, but it is not an exclusive substitute to physical locations,” Newsom said per CNN.
The governor’s announcement coincides with California’s phase into the second stage of its four-part plan to reopen businesses statewide. On Friday, Newsom said roughly 70 percent of the state’s economy is now cleared to reopen provided they adhere to additional restrictions. A few nonessential retailers, such as book shops and clothing stores, can now offer curbside service, and some warehouses considered at low risk for the virus have also been allowed to return to business.